How Do You Define Freedom?

How Do You Define Freedom?

When you hear or read the word “freedom,” what is the first thing that comes to mind? In the US, the 4th of July marks the anniversary of thirteen colonies declaring independence from Britain. They gained their freedom from British rule and government. In contrast, Canada Day, celebrated on the 1st of July, marks the anniversary of four separate colonies uniting into a single dominion with the British Empire. They gained their freedom to. Both holidays celebrate freedom, but from very different perspectives. One is freedom from, and the other, freedom to. But is it really a matter of perspective? The words freedom, free will, and liberty are frequently used interchangeably. However, according to Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Ph.D, author of Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics (MIT, 2006), there is significant difference: Liberty is linked to human subjectivity; people have (or have not) liberty. Free will is the quality of being free from control. Freedom can exist within a state of liberty: a person can be liberated but not experience freedom. Just as control differs from discipline, freedom differs from liberty. And then there is the matter of negative liberty (or negative rights) and positive liberty (or positive rights.) In Two Concepts of Liberty, Isaiah Berlin wrote that “I am slave to no man,” as an example of negative liberty, and “I am my own master,” as an example of positive liberty.   How do you experience freedom and liberty? Are you your own master? Defining Freedom Consider how you may have defined freedom pre-pandemic. Was it a feeling? Was it an... read more
Leadership, Trauma, and Recovery

Leadership, Trauma, and Recovery

The way we live and work has changed dramatically the past year, upending our routines, our identities, and for many, our sense of security. The trauma of job insecurity, health insecurity, major intergenerational loss, and culture assaults leave us reeling and impact our productivity. Leaders are concerned about their employee’s well-being and safety. Traditionally, when employees share or demonstrate a need for assistance, we rely on our human resources department (or representative) to step in. However, leaders and managers who are able to work with HR and their employees through trauma recovery are of greater help to those they lead —and their entire organization. The Catalyst for Change It’s no wonder that reports of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are on the rise. Experiencing violence (as a victim or witness), a serious illness, or the death of a loved one can trigger post-traumatic stress. Unfortunately, fear, misunderstanding, and lack of trust prevent many employees from seeking assistance or even reporting events. Trauma can impact anyone. Great leaders recognize this. They understand that how we manage trauma can define our life. The best leaders share openly about their own struggles, how they manage uncertainty, and are able to engage others to share their story. Why? Individual wellbeing matters in every organization, small or large. When leaders and managers are equipped to treat everyone with care and compassion, everyone benefits. In Posttraumatic Growth: Theory, Research, and Applications, (Routledge, 2018), authors Richard G. Tedeschi, Jane Shakespeare-Finch, Kanako Taku, and Lawrence G. Calhoun share their research on trauma and how leaders can help traumatized people recover. According to Tedeschi, “…despite the misery... read more
Inspirational Leadership

Inspirational Leadership

What does inspirational leadership look like in your organization? Let me ask: what impact do inspiring leaders have on performance, both organizationally, and at an individual level? Consider this: while an employee’s mindset is important to their overall performance, without support from their leadership, even the most committed and motivated employee may not reach their potential. This became very clear during the pandemic, as studies now find. When uncertainty and anxiety are high, employees must have clear expectations and emotional support. Unfortunately, some leaders have risen to the top through marketing or hype. They sway others to do as they ask (or command) with a lack of genuine concern for their well-being. As a result, there is a large degree of distrust and reluctance. Conversely, inspiring leaders take action because of their care and concern for others. You see, inspirational leadership is not about being in charge, it’s about taking care of those in our charge. While rank or title may indicate leadership authority, they are not indicators of leadership ability. Inspirational Leadership Can Be Developed Inspiring leaders are often described by their innate traits, strengths, or title. Fundamentally, inspirational leadership is the ability to positively influence and/or motivate others. In today’s world, inspirational leadership is about connection: connecting with those you lead in ways that are meaningful to them. You see, the relationships you create determine your abilities as an influencer. If you build trust and practice empathy in your relationships, you’ll create higher-quality connections. This may sound simple, but it poses certain challenges that require nuance and practice. Fortunately, we can develop inspirational leadership. At the core... read more
Your Heroic Journey

Your Heroic Journey

Where are you in your heroic journey? This is not a rhetorical question. Nor should it be answered flippantly. Certainly, it has taken many years (and experiences) to become who you are today. And it hasn’t been easy. However, out of our setbacks, and even failures, we have been afforded the opportunity to develop our grit: by encountering difficulty and learning to cope with it. This has made us stronger and more masterful. If you take the time to think about it, your journey as a hero began with a call that you just couldn’t ignore. This calling required that you put aside outmoded ways of being. It required facing unknown challenges. To move forward into the unknown the hero questions everything, including self. You see, at the core of your heroic journey is your acceptance of your true self: through self-assessment, reflection, and often times painful exploration of insufficiencies. This requires brutal honesty. If you think you haven’t begun your journey, know that denial can only last so long. Going back is not an option. Stagnation leads to decay, and eventually death. Instead, you can take a step forward. The Heroic Journey Guidebook The heroic journey doesn’t have a final destination, per se. It does, however, require careful attention, focus, and even vigilance to assess where you are and how to become your best self. Consider Doug Conant. He turned around the once struggling Campbell Soup Company, and went on to successfully lead Nabisco Foods. What is really remarkable is how he overcame being fired without warning, and considers this to be “the best thing that ever happened... read more
Gender Equity at Work

Gender Equity at Work

How do you ensure gender equity at work? To be sure, making our way through the pandemic has required real focus; for many leaders, keeping the lights on has been priority one. And yet, I’ve noticed that great leaders have managed to reach the light at the end of the tunnel without losing sight of the gender gap. They understand the advantages of inclusivity and gender equity. Unfortunately, they remain the exception, rather than the norm. Consider this: prior to the pandemic, the percentage of men and women employed in the U.S. was almost equal, and yet the ranks of leadership remained male-dominated. Women remain underrepresented in positions of power and status. The highest-paying jobs are the most gender-imbalanced as organizational barriers and managerial actions limit opportunities for even the most promising women. In the new book Glass Half-Broken, authors Colleen Ammerman and Boris Groysberg share their research on the gender gap. They reveal how women are squeezed from the leadership pipeline through their entire careers, and for a wide variety of reasons. According to the authors, “The gender imbalance at the top still remains, even in many women dominated industries such as health care and education, where men are still more likely to be found in leadership and executive roles.” Fortunately, many organizations have made great progress in bridging the gender gap. They fairly value the capabilities and contributions made by women. Why? Successful Gender Equity Successful organizations—and leaders—understand that gender equity at work is advantageous for everyone. Here are just a few of the advantages: Improved thinking and decisions. Increased focus and innovation. Greater access to talent.... read more
Get Your Career Mojo On!

Get Your Career Mojo On!

How is your career mojo? Navigating a return to work after a long absence can be daunting, especially if it requires securing a new position. Typically, most people rely on networking as a common strategy. However, with so many workers, managers, and leaders furloughed or laid off, the competition can be fierce. Add to that bias about long-term unemployment, and even great mojo can take a hit. There remains in our culture a stigma about long-term unemployment. This is especially true for the more mature knowledge workers who internalize self-blame or stigmas. Left unchecked, long-term unemployment can suck the air out of our spirit. When this happens our mojo becomes a no go, or as Marshall Goldsmith coined it, “nojo.” According to Goldsmith, nojo occurs when we become dispirited and confused. This is happening right now with two common mistakes: waiting for the facts to change, and looking for logic in all the wrong places. As a result, we get stuck, and stay stuck. Fortunately, there is action we can take to navigate a successful return to work. Avoid Mojo Traps Waiting for the facts to change. When we experience a setback, such as a loss of a job, it’s not uncommon to wait for the facts to change into something more to our liking. Similarly, when we are given the choice between two undesirable options, we’ll often choose neither. But, in a rapidly changing world, such inaction can be akin to moving backward. Instead, consider what action you would take if you knew the situation would not change. Ask yourself, “Which path do I choose?” Looking for logic... read more
Post-Pandemic Work: The Future is Now

Post-Pandemic Work: The Future is Now

What will work look like in your organization, post-Covid? When the pandemic ends, which new normal adaptations will endure? Our common response to massive disruption, such as a pandemic, is to hope for and assume things will return to normal. However, do we really want to return to all the old ways of doing business? This topic comes up frequently with my clients right now. And it makes sense: planning for an uncertain future is challenging, even for great leaders and managers. They want to avoid old “bad” habits, and incorporate new policies and processes that make sense for their organization, including their employees. Savvy leaders and managers understand the importance of an effective strategy, careful planning, and great execution in order to emerge from this pandemic. But do we truly know, and understand, how our work has been changed? When the Pandemic Ends… A massive disruption provides an opportunity to examine how things were before, including our view of the future. Based on an analysis of consumer and business trends, The McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) recently published a report on the future of work. According to MGI, remote work, digitization, and automation were accelerated by the pandemic. They predict that these trends will “have a lasting impact on workers and work, even after the pandemic.” However, others caution about expectation management. It is incredibly wonderful how so many have come together to create solutions, now and for the future. It is truly remarkable how we adapt: remaining flexible, creative, and productive through-out the process. A pandemic changes the way we work, learn, and live. It alters our perceptions... read more
The Power of Cognitive Flexibility and Persuasion

The Power of Cognitive Flexibility and Persuasion

“In a turbulent world, success depends not just on cognitive horsepower but also on cognitive flexibility. When leaders lack the wisdom to question their convictions, followers need the courage to persuade them to change their minds.” – Organizational psychologist, Adam Grant, PhD As a coach, I work with some really incredible people who have an amazing depth of wisdom. They rely on their knowledge, skills, experience, and intuition, and it serves them well. However, they will also be the first to tell you that there have been times when they regret rejecting the opinions and ideas of others in favor of their own, let’s just say, unwise ideas. When asked what led up to this, some will point to blind spots, or hidden bias. But others confess to simple over confidence: they wouldn’t listen to others and held fast to what they believed to be true. It’s not uncommon for leaders. After all, their expertise often catapults them to where they are today. But, have you noticed how truly great leaders have the wisdom and courage to question their own convictions? They do this with three key tactics: Accept that everyone has limits, including you. Surround yourself with a diversity of experts and empower them to ethically and courageously persuade you. Practice flexibility, collaboration, and compromise. Sounds simple enough, but…why don’t we “just do it?” Why We Believe Everything We Think First, it’s easy to forget that we don’t know what we don’t know. Add to that how facts quickly change, either through new data, discoveries, or perspectives, and what was once right may be outdated. Second, as leaders... read more
Manage Burnout for Peak Performance

Manage Burnout for Peak Performance

Peak performance is not what it used to be, according to leaders, managers, and employees who report teetering on the brink of burnout. And it’s not just individuals: entire organizations are at risk. Within the first seven weeks of 2021, Harvard Business Review published six articles on the topic, including how the pandemic contributes to burnout, how to recognize burnout, and how to fight burnout. But instead, what if we could avoid burnout and maintain peak performance? Although burnout is not classified as a medical condition or mental disorder (DSM-5), in 2019—pre-pandemic—the World Health Organization (WHO) re-defined the occupational phenomenon of burnout in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). According to the WHO, “burnout is a syndrome…resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” and includes three dimensions: Feeling of energy depletion Feeling of negativity/cynicism related to personal occupation or increasing mental distancing from occupation Reduced professional/occupational efficacy Typically, we avoid burnout by taking breaks: we enjoy several weeks of vacation, spend time away, and de-stress with a change of scenery and energizing activities. But for many, this has not been an option during the past year. Add to that virtual offices and work from home (WFH) practices, and stay-cations don’t recharge us like we need. Reaching and maintaining peak performance, for individuals and organizations, requires ongoing daily energy management. Four Dimensions Energy has four dimensions: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual (or ritual). We draw energy from each dimension, which we must replenish. To build our strength and expand our energy capacity (stamina/resilience) we must stretch ourselves beyond our usual limits and allow for rest. This... read more
Calm, Cool, and Collected: Communication in Conflict

Calm, Cool, and Collected: Communication in Conflict

How do you remain calm, cool, and collected when conflicts escalate? We’ve all been there: encountering someone in a fit of road rage; a neighbor upset about another neighbor’s transgression; dealing with a beloved toddler in the middle of a melt-down. Typically, we ignore such bad behavior, waiting for it to resolve itself. But, these may be prime opportunities to practice de-escalation techniques and communication skills. Generally speaking, we trust that our co-workers are capable of resolving conflicts and able to avoid crisis in the workplace. If a situation does escalate, equipped and available managers step in. But consider this: according to the most recent report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), over 20,000 workers experienced trauma from workplace violence in 2018. How does this happen? Conflict Escalation Multiple factors can escalate a situation, including: Physical: Pain/illness, sleep deprivation, low blood sugar/dehydration, prescription changes Mental or cognitive: Unhelpful thoughts/thinking patterns, negative perceptions, critical inner voice Emotional: Pre-existing mood disorders, past trauma, etc. Social: Lack of healthy support network, isolation Environmental: Visual or auditory triggers, audience Spiritual: Sense of connection to higher power or that which offers hope, faith, purpose While a crisis is not typically caused by one event, there is often a tipping point. Most common is the death of a significant other, loss of a relationship, loss of work, homelessness, or cabin fever. A crisis occurs when people perceive that they have encountered insurmountable obstacles to their goals, their life cycle or routine is significantly disrupted, and they have no appropriate method to manage their situation. In other words, they believe they have... read more

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